Before we get into Mixer Hell I want to talk about what is currently consuming my life: MBI Winds. It’s a brand new WGI Winds ensemble put on by Minnesota Brass – sort of like an indoor marching band, but just the horn line. Our first contest is in one month and we still have open positions for flute, clarinet, saxophone, baritone & tuba. Here’s more about our 2023 program and how to join: https://mnbrass.org/2022/11/2023-winds-show-announcement/

For this new ensemble we have audio equipment (computer, mixer, powered speakers) that are used for our backing track – non-winds sounds and percussion. Since this is a new ensemble with a limited budget, I took the approach to beg & borrow as much equipment as possible.

Mixer 1

I started with a Behringer X-32 console mixer from my old high school care of the Irondale Marching Knights. Put frankly, this mixer is huge. It was going to require a cart, and with only a 5’x9′ trailer I quickly realized that we wouldn’t be able to fit a huge sound cart and the floor tarp and the speakers.

While I like the X-32, it will likely be for sale in the near future…

Mixer 2

I had another cart option, a portable injection-molded SKB rack – free of charge from the Blaine HS Marching Band. This one would definitely be a better fit in the trailer, and MBI Indoor Percussion had an old rack-mount mixer they were trying to sell earlier in the year.

It was a Presonus StudioLive RML32AI and at first glance, it could do everything we needed: rack mount, computer audio interface, network control, and at least 8 channels.

My only complaint to start was I couldn’t install the mixer control app on my 3rd generation iPad with iOS 10. The mixer we used at River Valley Sound was a SoundCraft Ui16 which has a built-in web interface instead of an app. You could control that mixer with literally any device that had a web browser, old or new. On my old iPad it worked like a charm.

We were able to use the Presonus mixer for the month of December at rehearsals. But I had to borrow my wife’s (and sometimes kid’s) iPad which could run the control app.

Problem 1

While using it, we encountered one avoidable, but annoying problem. At one rehearsal it wouldn’t send anything on the main left/right outputs. I could plug a speaker into the mono/center out and it would work. So for one Friday evening we just used one speaker. I went home, searched and came upon this thread: https://forums.presonus.com/viewtopic.php?f=222&t=31779&sid=18e60e7bc8de7f7d56493cd5677e5e3d

TL;DR? There’s a bug where the main out is muted but not indicated anywhere in the app.

This problem happens when you save the scene with the “mute all” button pressed.

I don’t remember saving a scene, but I for sure used the “mute all” button frequently during equipment setup and teardown.

I found a solution for this, doing this:

Mute the Mono Out, then, in the mute groups screen, save this mute scene in any of the spaces. Press the Mute group button that you just saved the mute scene to. It will toggle the Mute for the Mono Out and the Main Out together.

Please Presonus, fix this bug !!!!

This was for-sure my problem because I tried the fix Saturday morning and was back in business.

Problem 2

The second problem was unavoidable in our circumstance. The computer audio interface on the Presonus StudioLive RML32AI uses firewire. That’s fine, I’m familiar with FireWire. It’s a little old school, but should work. Our sound system computer is an “Apple Silicone” (M1) Macintosh. At first I thought all I needed was a USB-C to Thunderbolt-2 adapter and a Thunderbolt-2 to FireWire adapter. $100 in adapters later, I still couldn’t get the mixer to be recognized as an audio interface on the computer. The Presonus FireWire drivers were consistently listed under Disabled Software in the mac’s System Report.

Presonus support confirmed that they have no plans to support FireWire drivers on M1 and newer Macintosh computers. Maybe performance was lacking? Because it’s certainly still possible to connect other firewire devices to Apple Silicon macs:

The only way to use Presonus hardware with a firewire audio interface is with an Intel-based Mac, or a Windows computer πŸ˜–

Mixer 3

It was clear we needed another option. There was something about the X-32 that I really liked: cross-platform support. They have mixer control programs for just about everything: Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android. The fact that I could use my Ubuntu system to potentially run the mixer makes my heart sing! 😍

So we landed on a Behringer X-32 Rack. All of the features of the console mixer, but in a rack-mount package. Double-bonus that some of our staff have previously used Behringer equipment and are familiar with the mixing software.

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